Mission Guatemala :: Day 4

Posted: July 29, 2018 in Mission Life
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Since today was Saturday, we were scheduled to work construction only a half-day, but that meant and even earlier start to the day so we could get a good amount of work in.  It is pretty amazing how hard this team is working – on their summer break – and considering we were up and ready by 6:30am (Note to parents: they are obviously capable and willing – Ha!).

So we did hit the ground running when we arrived at the construction site and divided into a few block laying teams and trench diggers.  But then we needed the occasional “play with a kid break” for all involved.  It’s amazing how quickly the team will spring into action to learn a new skill or jump in to give someone a much needed water or shade break.  It is a rewarding part of the masonry work to see the walls going higher and higher.  But even better was a chance to see the blueprints and mock-up of what the final ministry center will look like.  This certainly helped give us all a bit of perspective on what we are doing, but also knowing that we are helping a much bigger vision and project than our team could possibly accomplish.

The plan was to stop midday and then head to a river with a group of teenagers from the village for a ministry outing.  We we excited to get a chance to cool down (and the water was pretty chilly) and just have some fun as a team and get to know some of the teenagers.  We had lunch together and then at the end of our time together gathered everyone and I had an opportunity to share the Gospel by talking about relationships.  We tried to do a bit of a Q&A, but culturally, they are really quiet and we also knew they were a bit unsure of us.  So, we decided to divide into a guys group and a girls group.  Then we could also talk a little more directly about a challenge to be a Godly teenager and understand relationships from God’s perspective.  It was a bit hard to process the reality that many of the girls here become emotionally and physically involved around 13 years old and some are even having babies at that age.  We were grateful to be able to present a different perspective and also help them see the beauty of the Gospel in a relationship with Jesus.

After the river outing, we were able to get some much needed down time before we loaded up to head to Sarai’s church in a village not too far from where we are staying.  It was an incredible experience to see her home and her neighborhood and join them in worship.  The music is fast, celebratory and passionate and we did our best despite not knowing many of the songs.  Two of our students, Parker and Anisa had the opportunity to stand and share their testimonies as a part of the service.  I was incredibly proud to see them have the courage to stand and share the hope they have found in Jesus.  Then I was privileged to have the opportunity to stand in and preach the sermon for worship tonight.  After worship, Sarai’s family made dinner for us and then we were able to walk down to another home for an ice cream like desert.  It was the perfect finish to a great day.

God is certainly moving in and amongst us and we are noticing.  We are doing our best to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and be aware what He is doing in and through us.  Thanks for continuing to follow along and please continue to pray for us!

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Mission Guatemala :: Day 3

Posted: July 28, 2018 in Mission Life
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Our team is settling into the rhythm of life here on mission in Guatemala.  And it is awesome to see how the team has been focused on unity through a common Gospel and common mission.  Everything we do, we do together – from our meals, to times in God’s Word as a team, to construction, to playing with kids or just caring for one another.  And it has been a blessing to be invited into this ministry to get to know the ministry leaders and join with them and work where God is working.

As far as construction goes, most are finding their groove as to what they are able to do, but most are willing enough to step out of their comfort zone and learn new things by trying.  And even though the sun and temperature seems to be unrelenting, the attitude of serving with joy continues to shine through.

We continued construction on the ministry center and block by block we are going from footers to walls that are starting to have some height.  And of course there is more dirt to be moved, whether backfilling into the walls or removing part of the hill adjacent to the property.  The work can be tedious, but it was rewarding to see more and more sections completed.  And the skills being learned – from mixing concrete and mortar, to laying block, to building rebar are incredibly valuable.

Around noon, we took a break to head back to the ministry center for lunch.  With temps reaching 100, we took advantage of the siesta that is prevalent in Latin culture.  Some on the team went for the full experience and actually got a nap in before we headed back for more work in the afternoon.

More and more kids are coming around to the worksite, which is always a welcome sight (and often a quick break from the work).  But we are learning more names and relishing the chance to engage in some conversation or just to hold some kids or play.

On our way back from a full day of construction, we stopped for a community meeting to prepare for our camp that we will host next week.  It was awesome to see all the mothers and kids that had gathered to learn about what we will be doing and to get their “ticket” for camp.  We are excited to get to spend this time with them and can’t wait to see how God is going to use camp in their lives.

We finish each evening with team time – time together as a group where we debrief our day and spend some time in God’s Word.  And then we wrap the evening in small groups.  Our day is starting even earlier tomorrow, so we are off for some much needed rest.

Thanks for following our mission and for your continued prayer support!

Mission Guatemala :: Day 2

Posted: July 27, 2018 in Mission Life
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If we had to pick two words to recap today they just might have to be sweaty and sunburn.  We didn’t start that way, but we sure finished that way.

We started early and headed down the mountain to have breakfast and then a tour of the ministry center.  It is an amazing facility that houses the feeding program, education, recreation and even a medical clinic.  From there, we loaded up the back of the truck (how we travel in town) and made our way for our first visit to Los LImones, the primary community we will be working in.  We left the city and headed down the dirt road.  We made some stops along the way to see some of the ministry projects that have already been completed – like the church and the other two wells.

We then arrived at the third well, that was just completed and got to see the size and scope of the construction project we are working on.  We are helping build a building that will not only house the well, but be a functional community center for the people.  We got right to work – moving dirt, laying mortar and block for the footers, building rebar and making concrete.  Many of these skills we have from all our work in Nicaragua and we were pleased to see a very similar construction style.

About midday, we headed back to the ministry center in Gualan to participate in the feeding program.  Every Tuesday and Thursday, around 70 kids come to get lunch and then have an opportunity to learn and play.  We were most certainly down for the play until they had to go and left us exhausted!

Then it was back to Los LImones and right back to work.  We were amazed to see people from the community – especially a group of ladies jump right in and help with the work.  Then some of the kids from the program also gathered to see what was going on.  We’re excited to see these relationships beginning to form and can’t wait to really get to know them next week at camp.

After a full day of work, we were back to the ministry center for dinner.  Food just always seems to taste better when you are filthy and exhausted from a hard day of work.  From there, we headed back to the hostel to shower and get ready for our team time.  This is always a special part of each of our mission team’s experiences.  God has already been paving the way in our hearts and it was great to connect with God’s Word and each other tonight.

Our bodies are still adjusting, so we are praying for a good night’s rest and can’t wait to see what God has in store for us tomorrow!

Mission Guatemala :: Day 1

Posted: July 26, 2018 in Mission Life
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There isn’t too much to say today regarding our first day here as it was a full day of travel… that started early (like 4 am early) and ended late (like arriving to our facility at 8 pm or 10 pm on our body clock time).  So needless to say we are tired.  We had two flights and then about 5 hours of driving from Guatemala City to Gualan, where we will stay and serve this mission.

All in all, it was a relatively uneventful day, but one full of new experiences as this is the first time in Guatemala for everyone on the team.  But if you are a bit unsure how we got here – especially if you are reading this on our Mission Nicaragua page, allow me to explain.

For the last 14 years, we have been sending mission teams to Nicaragua to partner with the Buzbees and Open Hearts Ministries.  However, after some policy changes were made in April by the government, and the people of Nicaragua erupted into PEACEFUL protests of those changes.  Unfortunately, the government responded with oppression, kidnapping, violence and even murder.  And there is seemingly no end in sight.  The numbers continue to rise, yet the people continue to seek to stand their ground peacefully.  Please stay up on the situation and please continue to pray for our friends there.

Seeing the situation worsening, we decided to pray and ask God to open other doors for our team to serve this summer.  We started immediately exploring Haiti (where I’ve led a college team) and also Guatemala, where our church has sent two teams.  Haiti seemed to continue to have closed doors with each opportunity we looked at, and then just recently, their country erupted into violence after some government decisions.  Please pray for our friends and ministry partners there.

Interestingly, one of our Haiti team members is Guatemalan and serves the ministry here that God led us to connect with.  Sarai has become a dear friend and it is so cool to see how the connections in serving together have led us to serve with her and serve her community this summer.  So here we are, partnered with His Hands International and we will be serving here for the next 10 days.

That’s the story how we got here, now the story of how God will use us, change us and shape us remains to be written.  Thanks for following along and most importantly, thanks for praying with us and for us.

Don’t forget you can follow us on Instagram, Twitter and on our Facebook page for more pictures and updates.  We’ll also do our best to blog here each evening.

Pausing and Reflecting

Posted: June 19, 2018 in Family Life
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Our memories are funny things.  I’ve often noticed we hold on to and can recall the bad memories considerably easier than we do with the good.  I’m sure there is an physiological and psychological reason that people much smarter than I can explain.  But I’ve also found that bad and good memories rarely exist apart from each other.  It would also seem those two divisions are feeble at best to categorize all memories, but I’ll just go with those for now.

Today, June 19, 2018, marks four years of memories.  Some bad and some good.  And a good mixture of thousands of other feelings between those two.  But what happened 4 years ago today was predicated by some bad news.  News that would change the trajectory of our son, Cole’s health, when he was diagnosed with the rare, Perthes disease.  A diagnosis so difficult and seemingly “bad” that we for multiple moments lost our faith perspective and hope.  I guess diseases tend to do that to us.

But as I just took a moment to pause and reflect today, I thought it best to also write.  And to write about how good “good” really is when we best see and embrace the bad.  In fact, without the perspective of the bad, would we fully be able to see and understand the good?

Four years ago in some ways seems like just yesterday.  I can recall the emotions, the surroundings, the family, the fears, the faith and the prayers like it was yesterday.  But in other ways, four years seems like a lifetime ago.  Cole has come so far.  Truly beyond what we ever could have imagined, but most certainly what we prayed for that day in 2014.  

He is now 9 years old and rarely stops moving (which reminds me how amazing God was to give him the patience and stillness to stay in that spica cast for so long).  He does well in school from a natural curiosity and love for learning.  He loves all things outdoors, but especially fishing.  And he runs from sport to sport – competing in flag football, soccer and baseball again this year.

So, today, I’m grateful for the memories.  The bad and the good.  And really I hold them all in the perspective of what we are reminded of in James 1:17, that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…”

What a good promise, from a good God.  He loves to shower down the good even in the midst of living and fully experiencing the brokenness of this world.  And make no mistake… there is plenty of bad!  But it just makes the “good” of the Good News, look that much better.  Because we know the bad and the good point to the even greater reality… the best good is yet to come.  Our hope is in a King that is coming to fully restore His Kingdom.

But until that day, I’ve found it’s a good practice to pause, reflect and remember.

Oh, and one other thing I’ve noticed about memories is… Facebook clearly has a better memory than me.

Mission Nicaragua :: Recap

Posted: August 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

Nicaragua 2017Nicaragua 2017-2

Today reality set in.  We woke up and realized everything was going to be different as we were wheeling our suitcases down to the Rancho for breakfast.  I guess it is true that all good things do have to come to an end, but we were doing pretty well ignoring that reality.  So, team breakfast was a bit more somber than usual.  The morning greeted us with a rain shower.  The feelings of “see you later” started to permeate the air.

But, after breakfast, we got to see the Ruby Ranch Master Plan.  We got to hear the vision and see what the finished project may look like (and the sooner $2 million dollars come in, the faster it gets done)!  Seems crazy, but God we remember that nothing is impossible with God.  It was encouraging for our team to see that the work we accomplished this week plays into a larger vision with a far-reaching impact.

No trip to Nicaragua is complete without a trip to the market.  The running joke is the market is where you can get everything that was made in China that says “Nicaragua” on it.  But it is a tradition.  We didn’t have much time, but everyone got to make it around to pick up their souvenirs to take back home.  The market is home to just about everything, including food, but we didn’t make it back to the food section (an experience you never forget).  Crazy for me is seeing some of the kids that sell in the market that I’ve watched grow up there over the last 10+ years.

From the market, we were off to the airport to run through the gauntlet of the Managua check-in process.  It was crazy as usual and that left us only a little bit of time to scarf down some lunch before going through security and on to our gate.  But we all made it and had a good flight back into Miami.  Immigration and customs went well for all but two (something always happens) and then we were back on US soil.  The next choice is a big one… what kind of food does everyone want to eat for dinner.  We had a decent layover and had plenty of time to grab and meal.

From there it was our last leg back to Tallahassee.  An uneventful flight is a good thing and next thing you know we’re walking down the hallway and spotting friends, family and loved ones that were waiting to greet us.

Mission Nicaragua 2017 is officially behind us… however we know that the mission never ends.  God has brought this chapter to a close but the Great Commission stands before us as a goal we continue to strive to complete.  Until all the world knows…

Thanks again for your continued prayers and support this mission!  We felt the love and support  May God be glorified and the Gospel continue to go out in word and in deed.